November 30, 2007
It was Thanksgiving morning, and running back Johnathan Franklin of Los Angeles Dorsey woke up feeling the pain of a hard night's work.
"I could barely move," he said.
His thigh was swollen. His hip was bruised. His hands and arms were cut up. His lip was busted.
He took an ice bath for 20 minutes. Then he waited another 20 minutes and took a hot bath full of Epsom salt. All day, he repeated his treatments, trying to recover from taking hit after hit during a 48-26 City Championship Division quarterfinal victory over Venice.
"You're an old man," his mother, Pamela, joked. "I bet you can't run down the field like that."
On the contrary, if the Dons had a game on Thanksgiving, Franklin would have found a way to be ready.
"I love it, I love it, I love it," he said.
As sixth-seeded Dorsey (9-3) prepares to take on second-seeded Carson (10-2) tonight at Carson, with a trip to the City Championship game at the Coliseum on the line, it should be noted that the Dons have on their side a player who finds a way to display memorable moments of toughness and character in every game.
"There were a lot of times I didn't want to get up, but my heart won't let me stop fighting," Franklin said of his 146-yard, three-touchdown rushing performance against Venice.
Franklin, 5 feet 11 and 190 pounds, has rushed for 1,693 yards. Sometimes he has to sacrifice his body. It's what top running backs do. But it's the way Franklin plays football that makes him stand out.
"He just plays 100% every play," Coach Paul Knox said. "He's relentless on both offense and defense."
And it's that all-out unyielding attitude that Knox must monitor. He doesn't let Franklin play every down on defense, and for good reason.
"He'll just keep playing until he drops," Knox said. "Even when he gets dinged, he stands up, shakes it off and plays. He's amazing."
Franklin is inserted on defense at key moments, whether playing safety, linebacker or end. Twice against Venice, he sacked quarterback Richard Ragland blitzing from the end position. Another time his pass rush forced an intentional grounding penalty.
If Franklin had his wish, he'd play all the time.
"It's football," he said. "You prepare for games like that. That's why you get into condition. I never like being limited. If I had a foot, I would kick the ball."
Franklin personifies toughness. Even if he's hurting, he won't let others feel his pain. His father, Herman, was a track and football standout at USC.
"Toughness is being a warrior," he said. "You're hard core. You don't let anything affect you."
A year ago, injuries got the best of Franklin. A broken thumb and back spasms forced him to miss all but three games. It taught him a lesson about making the most of every opportunity.
"I saw how easily it could be taken away," he said. "It's made me humble. Every play, every down, I give thanks to God."
With a 3.3 grade-point average and a determination not to fail in school or on the athletic field, Franklin said his mother has been an inspiration and role model, raising him as a single parent.
"She taught me to never give up," he said. "She's my backbone. She's supported me in everything I did."
Franklin has committed to UCLA. He's supposed to come in as a defensive back, but his development as a running back could make the Bruins change their plans.
"The more we've watched him run the ball, the better prospect he looks as a running back," Knox said.
With Franklin setting the example, Dorsey enters the City semifinals as a dangerous opponent.
"I've never been on a team like this," Franklin said. "There's no problems. If one falls, we all fall. We are as strong as our weakest link. We know we'll never give up."
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